BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum today declared a statewide emergency for widespread utility infrastructure damage caused by a severe winter ice storm that left over 20,000 North Dakotans without electricity.
Burgum plans to request a presidential disaster declaration for the event to unlock federal assistance to help pay for eligible response costs and infrastructure repairs, including hundreds of downed utility poles after the Christmas storm brought a combination of freezing rain and wind.
The emergency declaration encompasses the three-day event Dec. 25-27 that caused the National Weather Service to issue its first ice storm warning in North Dakota since 2016. Freezing rain coated power lines and poles with ice, while winds toppled over 1,400 poles and snapped power lines, causing millions of dollars in damage.
Thousands of customers in eastern North Dakota remain without electricity as utilities bring in extra crews to restore power. The storm forced many businesses to close or delay services, closed portions of I-29 and I-94 and made city streets and rural roads impassable.
“We’re deeply grateful for the tireless efforts of local linemen and crews from across the state helping to restore power, as well as for the first responders, emergency management teams, road crews, health care workers and all others working to keep citizens safe during this extraordinary event,” Burgum said. “Our state agencies continue to support local response efforts as we prepare to seek a federal disaster declaration and assistance.”
The statewide emergency declaration directs state agencies to provide response resources and capabilities if needed to support local and tribal governments. It also sets the stage for requesting a presidential disaster declaration, which if granted would unlock FEMA public assistance to help repair damaged utilities and other infrastructure.
State agencies including the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services (NDDES) have been supporting local jurisdictions throughout the event by identifying needs and assisting with resource coordination. They also have been working closely with the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives (NDAREC) and investor-owned utilities to ensure the most efficient restoration of power possible. Currently, all requests made of the state have been met.
“We appreciate the communication and coordination from NDDES, the Governor’s Office and local officials, and are especially grateful for the patience and understanding from electric cooperative members as our dedicated electric cooperative employees work to safely restore power,” said Josh Kramer, executive vice president and general manager for NDAREC.
One emergency shelter in Gackle in Logan County and one warming house in Medina in Stutsman County have been established. Residents are asked to contact local officials if they need access to shelter facilities and are reminded to avoid downed power lines. Those affected by this storm also are encouraged to check on their neighbors and friends to ensure they are safe.